https://www.computerweekly.com/news/252 ... -back-door
A senior Post Office executive at the centre of an IT scandal, who tried to mislead a High Court judge in relation to it, has left the organisation without fanfare despite many years of service.
Post Office director Angela van den Bogerd, who joined the company working on the counter and worked her way up to become one of its top executives, has left quietly under a cloud.
She was blamed by subpostmasters for many of the Post Office’s failings, which led to hundreds of them being wrongly blamed and punished for accounting shortfalls.
The Post Office said: “Angela van den Bogerd has left the Post Office to explore other opportunities. We are not in a position to disclose the details of her departure, which are personal to Angela.”
Despite the claim that Van den Bogerd left on her own volition, her position became untenable after her role in the Horizon scandal, according to subpostmasters,
One source said the departure was unannounced, adding: “Normally when people leave the Post Office after many years, and have been considered to have done a good job, there is a lot of fanfare. But Angela van den Bogerd, like [former CEO] Paula Vennells, left quietly.”
Vennells left the Post Office towards the end of 2019, just as a High Court judge slammed the behaviour of the company, which she ran from 2012 to 2019.
Both executives were indelibly linked to the Horizon IT scandal, which saw subpostmasters prosecuted by the Post Office for alleged crimes, including false accounting and theft, when the Horizon IT system they used had recorded accounting shortfalls. Some went to prison and many had their lives ruined through lost businesses, ill health and huge fines.
Computer Weekly first made the scandal public in 2009 after an investigation (see timeline below), and a High Court judgment in December 2019 proved the subpostmasters were right in blaming the computer system for errors and the Post Office was wrong in blaming them.
Van den Bogerd was the most senior Post Office executive who gave evidence and was cross-examined in court during a recent group litigation action brought by hundreds of subpostmasters.
When High Court judge Peter Fraser handed down his judgment on the first trial in the court action, which was a huge victory for the subpostmasters, he was highly critical of Van den Bogerd.
In the 300-page judgment handed down on 15 March 2019, he said: “There were two specific matters where [Van den Bogerd] did not give me frank evidence, and sought to obfuscate matters, and mislead me.”
Fraser slammed the Post Office and its executives in his judgment. He said the organisation had exhibited “a simple institutional obstinacy or refusal to consider any possible alternatives to their view of Horizon, which was maintained regardless of the weight of factual evidence to the contrary”.
He added: “That approach by the Post Office was continued, even though now there is now considerable expert evidence to the contrary, and much of it agreed expert evidence on the existence of numerous bugs.
“This approach by the Post Office has amounted, in reality, to bare assertions and denials that ignore what has actually occurred, at least so far as the witnesses called before me in the Horizon issues trial are concerned. It amounts to the 21st century equivalent of maintaining that the Earth is flat.”
Subpostmasters won their High Court battle and were awarded £57.75m in settlement. But this was reduced to about £11m after legal costs were taken out. This meant the damages received by subpostmasters do not remotely cover what they lost through fines and repaying money that they were wrongly accused of stealing.
In March this year, Telford MP Lucy Allan told Computer Weekly that when it comes to the injustices inflicted by the Post Office, those that have not played by the rules – regardless of their position – should face justice.
“Anyone found to have deliberately misled the court or to have encouraged others to do so, thus causing a miscarriage of justice, should be prosecuted, no matter how mighty they are,” she said. “We are all equal under the law and, in such a serious case, a prison sentence should be expected.”
The same month, the Criminal Cases Review Commission referred 39 appeals from subpostmasters against their criminal convictions to the Court of Appeal. This was the biggest group referral of potential miscarriages of justice in UK history.
Karl Turner, MP for Hull East, said at the time: “I do not think anything is good enough other than prosecution for the individuals that knew the what, when and why.”